April 28, 2007

Caught between two seasons (Beef Biscuit Pie)

Spring has been difficult, this year. I never know quite how to dress, and I oscillate between cooking for winter and cooking for spring. One day, the sun will be shining and the air smells green and fresh, and I suddenly want salad, and the next day we're back to the gloomy, rainy, dark and difficult dregs of a season we're long tired of.

I try to be pleased that I can fit in one more slow-braised beef dish, before it becomes hopelessly out of step with the season, and to that end the Biscuit Pie fits in quite nicely. The beef cooks slowly in the oven for a couple of hours before getting fitted with a thin biscuity topping and a high temperature just long enough to make the biscuit rise and crisp, and become slightly golden. It's really a pot pie, I guess, but with a biscuit top rather than a traditional or puff pastry crust. This is the way my mother used to make Steak & Kidney "pie" and since I like mushrooms more than I like kidney, I've made a simple substitution. Either way, the flavours are rich and tasty. You can outfit any kind of stew you like with a biscuit topping, though, and I've certainly made Chicken Biscuit Pies plenty of times, too, although they don't really need the long slow braise. Perhaps next winter (because, we are on to spring now, right?) I'll try a Lamb Biscuit Pie, because I think that would work beautifully.

Then, the sun shines, and I find myself wanting things light and fresh, and there is asparagus in the markets demanding to be taken home and steamed or roasted, or chopped into pasta. There is no recipe for the above dish, because I failed to take notes while I threw it together. The asparagus were simply spritzed with a little canola oil and roasted at 400 F for about 8 to 10 minutes, and the cherry tomatoes in the pasta were also roasted for about 10 minutes. I made a simple white sauce with a small amount of butter and flour, and stirred in some lemon zest, lemon juice, and fresh basil. A little shell pasta, and a little leftover ham that needed using, and the whole thing came together in about 20 minutes. The pasta was topped with a heavy-handed dose of fresh, lucsiously nutty shredded parmesan cheese, and, you know? It felt like spring was actually here, for a moment...

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